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Timberwolves humiliate Suns with 120-95 victory to take Game 1

© Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves looked like they had a statement to make and did exactly that with a 120-95 blowout victory over the No. 6 Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the first round.

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The Suns’ regular season success did not translate at all to Game 1, as they were dominated on both ends of the ball at Target Center. Perhaps most telling was that the Suns only had 16 assists to 15 turnovers, but this was one of the many areas they struggled in.

Minnesota outrebounded Phoenix 52-28, won the second-chance points 20-6 and bench points 41-18.

The Timberwolves shot 44-for-88 (50%) and 12-for-32 (37.5%) from deep compared to 33-for-75 (44%) on field goals for Phoenix and 9-for-28 (32.1%) from 3.

Anthony Edwards, who only averaged 14.3 points on 31% shooting in the three games against the Suns this year, led Minnesota with 33 points on 14-of-24 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists. He was one of five Wolves’ players to score in double-figures, including Nickeil Alexander-Walker (18 points) and Naz Reid (12 points) off the bench.

Devin Booker finished with 18 points, only shooting 5-for-16 from the floor, as the Suns could not capitalize on Kevin Durant’s 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting and seven rebounds. Royce O’Neale also had a big game off the bench with 14 points (5-of-10 FG) and four rebounds.

Bradley Beal had 15 points and six assists despite 0 field goal attempts in the first quarter. Jusuf Nurkić only recorded four rebounds to go along with nine points.

Grayson Allen, who left with 4:44 left in the third quarter with a right ankle sprain after awkwardly stepping on Karl Anthony-Towns foot, only had four points on 0-for-3 shooting in 25 minutes. Eric Gordon went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in 21 minutes.

The Timberwolves gained control of this game in the second quarter and never looked back. Here’s how the game unfolded:

Game Flow

In his 167th career playoff game, Durant started out by scoring nine of the Suns’ first 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, as the Timberwolves made an adjustment with Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert taking a lot of the challenge guarding him.

The Wolves, overall, looked much better defensively because of their adjustments, specifically putting Edwards on Beal rather than Mike Conley.

Edwards had two early turnovers, but overall looked a lot more prepared right away to play the Suns than he did in the regular season with five early points. The Suns and Wolves were knotted at 11 midway through the first quarter.

Then, both benches came in, and the Wolves’ ended up making a big impact. Edwards found Alexander-Walker and Reid for open 3s on back-to-back possessions, to give Minnesota a 23-22 lead with 2:10 left in the quarter.

The Suns ended up leading 28-27 at the end of the first quarter after Royce O’Neale hit a buzzer-beating 3.

Durant led with 11 points, as the Suns shot 52% from the field. The T-Wolves were winning the rebounding battle 13-7, highlighted by seven from Rudy Gobert. Phoenix forced four turnovers and two early fouls on Edwards, who tied Towns with a team-high seven points in the quarter.

The Suns continued their strategy from the regular season with Durant and Booker on the bench to start the second quarter. Beal, who didn’t attempt a shot in the first quarter, had four points with his two co-stars on the bench before Durant checked back in with 9:25.

The T-Wolves were up 40-36 midway through the second quarter, as they were up 19-6 in bench points and 14-0 in second-chance points.  Alexander-Walker highlighted the bench points with 10 at this point.

Booker made one of the best plays you can make against a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert by taking him baseline for a reverse layup.

Minnesota continued to convert on second-chance opportunities and built up a solid 10-point lead that they stayed around for the last 3:25 of the quarter.

Both Booker and Edwards found themselves in foul trouble late in the second quarter. Edwards picked up his third foul with 3:18 left and Booker with 2:33 remaining.

The Suns only had eight assists (seven turnovers) on 19 made shots on 40 attempts (47.5%). The Wolves were winning rebounding battle 27-14 (8-1 offensive), second-chance points 16-2 and bench points 21-6 at the break. Phoenix had 0 fast-break points compared to nine for Minnesota.

Durant had a cool 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and four rebounds in the half. Booker only had seven points on 3-of-9 shooting. Allen went 0-for-2 from deep and overall in the first half. Bradley Beal and Jusuf Nurkić both had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, but Nurkić only had two rebounds.

Conley joined Edwards with three fouls late in the second quarter. Karl Anthony-Towns led the Wolves with 13 points (3-of-6 shooting), five rebounds and four assists. Edwards had 10 points (4-of-8 shooting), three rebounds and three assists in the first half, while Alexander-Walker contributed with 12 off the bench. Minnesota shot 22-for-47 (47%).

Both teams struggled from 3, as the Suns shot 3-for-10 from deep and Minnesota went 4-for-14 in the first half. Minnesota won the second quarter 34-23 overall,

Kyle Anderson was ruled out for the game right before the start of the third quarter with a right hip pointer, which caused him to play only just under five minutes in the game.

The Suns start the third quarter on a quick 5-0 spurt with a Beal 3 and then a Durant mid-range pull-up. The Timberwolves came back and quickly got the lead back up to double-digits.

However, Durant was absolutely on fire to start the third with nine of the team’s first 12 points in the quarter on perfect 4-for-4 shooting, keeping the Suns right in it.

Beal was right there with them, as he and Durant combined for the team’s first 16 points in the quarter and cut the Timberwolves lead to 71-67 with 7:03 remaining in the third to force Minnesota to call a timeout.

The Suns then went cold, as they didn’t make a field goal the rest of the quarter, while Minnesota closed on a 21-5 run (all free throws for Suns). To make matters worse, Allen went down with his ankle injury with 4:44 left in the third and never returned.

Edwards finished with 18 points in the quarter on 8-of-11 shooting, while the Suns went 6-for-18 (33%) as a team (zero makes on last nine attempts). Minnesota led by 20 points at the end of the quarter and was outscoring Phoenix 92-72 overall.

The Suns began the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run, but Minnesota responded with a 13-3 run of their own. The game was pretty much over at this point, as the Timberwolves led 105-80 with 8:08 remaining.

But, the Suns did answer with an 11-2 run over their to make it 107-91 with 5:02 remaining.

Then, Edwards put an exclamation point on a big Wolves’ victory with a transition slam with 3:37 to go and Minnesota leading 111-91. The Suns emptied their bench from this point, and it was all she wrote.

Next Up

Game 2 between these two teams will be until Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. MST in Minnesota. The game will be televised on Arizona’s Family and TNT, as Phoenix will look to bounce back from this tough loss.

Suns-Wolves Game 1 and series ultimate preview: Can Suns continue regular season-success vs. Minnesota?

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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